Netflix’s penchant for documentaries is landing the streamer in hot water, this time courtesy of Rachel Williams — partner of New York con artist Anna Sorokin. She sued the company on Monday for defamation about her appearance Inventing Anna.
The series, based on a May 2018 New York article, presents the frauds and downfall of Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey. In the show, Sorokin infiltrates New York’s upper class by lying about her fortune as a German heiress and defrauding banks out of millions to finance her extravagant lifestyle. It includes a whimsical disclaimer: “This story is absolutely true. Except for the parts that are fully made up.’
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Williams — ex Vanity fair photo editor who published an article about her time with Sorokin before New YorkHis feature has arrived — he claims that almost everything about the character on the show is made up. According to Netflix’s retelling of events, Williams happily accepts lavish gifts and trips from Sorokin, but sells her friend out to the authorities once she learns that Sorokin lied about her fortune.
“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things on the Series that portray her as greedy, snobbish, unfaithful, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative, and opportunistic,” the complaint states. which was deposited. in federal court in Delaware.
In one scene, Williams is forced to admit by a lawyer during Sorokin’s fraud trial that Sorokin picked up the tab on every outing. The lawsuit alleges that the confrontation is intended to imply that Williams is a freeloader, which she claims is false because she paid for drinks on occasion and split the bill on some spa treatments and dinners.
In another scene, Sorokin is abandoned by Williams in Morocco after her credit card is declined to stay at a luxury resort. Williams says she told Sorokin before the trip that she would have to leave on a certain date to travel to France for work. It is implied that Williams ended her friendship with Sorokin after her friend began experiencing financial difficulties, according to the lawsuit.
“Williams did not cease to be friends with Sorokin because Sorokin was in trouble in Morocco, but because she subsequently discovered on her return to New York that Sorokin was a liar and a fraud whose statements and promises had forced Williams to take responsibility The $62,000 on behalf of Sorokin was false and he only returned $5,000 to her despite numerous promises to return the $70,000 to account for the full debt and any late fees,” the complaint states.
Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, representing Williams, says the lawsuit proves his client’s character was deliberately misrepresented to tell a better story. It highlights an interview with Shonda Rhimes, the show’s executive producer and creator.
“We wanted to know what we were making,” Rhimes says in the interview. “We didn’t want to make things just for the sake of it.” He adds, “We wanted to intentionally imagine moments instead of accidentally imagining them.”
In another interview with The Hollywood Reportersays Rhimes, “There were things we invented because they had to be invented to really make the story sing and be what it should be.”
Katie Lowes, who played Williams in the series, also says during an interview that:[The Rachel character is] a people pleasing. She is young, naive and has had a privileged life. I don’t think that’s necessarily true of Rachel Williams in real life. I think that’s true of the character Shonda wrote and what Shonda needed the character to be for the show.”
Rufus-Isaacs claims the statements are an admission that Netflix knew the allegedly defamatory statements and actions were false, but went ahead anyway, so the show had a villain. Rhimes and Shondaland are not named in the complaint.
In order to succeed in defamation cases against high-profile public figures, it must be shown that the alleged defamatory statements were made with actual malice. There must be intent to harm with prior knowledge that what was said is false or a reckless disregard for the truth. Several defamation lawsuits, including those filed by Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and a person who sued over his performance in The Wolf of Streetthey failed to meet the standard.
Williams, who optioned the rights to it Vanity fair article and unwritten book on HBO, he says THR, “Netflix deliberately used my real name and real aspects of my life to create a completely false and defamatory characterization of me. Truth matters and portraying real people requires real responsibility. I am filing this lawsuit to hold Netflix accountable for its willful recklessness.”
Williams’ character is the only one on the show who has the full name of a real person and has the same employer, landlord and home neighborhood as the real person, according to the complaint, which alleges defamation and false slight invasion of privacy.
“The reason we had to file this lawsuit is because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and bio and made her out to be a horrible person, which she’s not,” says Rufus-Isaacs. “Disastrous damage to her reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a fictitious name and different details. Why didn’t they do this for her when they did it for so many other characters in the Series? Maybe the reason was that he had chosen to play for the other team, namely HBO.”
In 2017, Sorokin, who was paid $320,000 for the rights to her story by Netflix, was arrested in a sting operation with the help of Williams. He was released from prison on parole after two years, after which he was taken into the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to Germany.
This isn’t the first project based on real life to take Netflix to court. Alan Dershowitz, a former Soviet chess grandmaster, and a Cuban exile organization sued the streamer over their portrayal in various shows and movies.
Netflix and Shondaland did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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